WINTER JAM: John Glenn Rockets have plenty left in tank to roll past young Mt. Clemens
SOUTHFIELD — Given the weird nature of their schedule, the biggest concern for Westland John Glenn coach Rod Watts in Saturday’s game was if the Rockets would have enough fuel left in the tanks to pressure a young Mt. Clemens team.
Turned out they did, as the Rockets finished off their third game in a four-day span, rolling past the Battling Bathers, 85-59, in the inaugural State Champs! Winter Jam at Don Ridler Field House on the campus of Lawrence Tech.
“I was a little bit concerned … about sore bodies, because we had a real physical game against Wayne Memorial Thursday night. I was concerned if we’d had enough rest, and the bodies were ready,” Watts said. “We didn’t do a whole lot in practice yesterday. We just kind of chilled, shot around, walked through some things. Then this morning, we were up at 8 o’clock this morning, doing a community service detail that we had committed to. I’d just as soon do that, rather than them sleep in, then wake up groggy.”
After being inactive for the first 22 days of the season, the Rockets (3-0) beat Livonia Franklin 84-39 on Tuesday, Wayne Memorial 71-61 on Thursday, and then Mt. Clemens on Saturday.
They had enough left in the tank to run past Mt. Clemens (3-4), using their full-court, man-to-man pressure to stymie a Battling Bathers lineup that started two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior.
“Youth and inexperience. You could tell we had young guys out there. It’s really a JV team, in terms of age,” Mt. Clemens coach Pete Trammell said. “But yeah, we’ve just gotta get better with man-to-man pressure. With that youth and inexperience, I think they’re getting better with it, but it’s going to be a challenge — these next four, five games are going to be a challenge. We’re going to have to really grow up.”
The point at which that was most noticeable was in the final few minutes of the first half, when John Glenn put on a 10-0 run, stretching a one-possession game into double-digits, 49-36, at the half.
“That’s where their experience stepped in, with Moon (Joe Moon IV) — he’s a really good player. (Renel) Thrasher’s a good player. They really controlled the game, as guards. Our youth kind of showed. We’ve got two guards that are sophomores, we’ve got two freshmen that we start,” Trammell said. “So sometimes, with the youth, they do great things, but they can’t consistently do it. That’s kind of what the issue was late in that first half.”
Leading the charge defensively were Moon, who finished with a game-high 36 points, and Thrasher, who had 30.
“We’re very physical, and we get after it and hustle,” Moon said. “We play hard D, have good help-side, and love pinching the gaps. We know that if we the stops on D, the buckets are going to come. Just get stops, that’s the main goal.”
The Rockets continued to apply the pressure in the third quarter, aggressively enough that they started stacking up the team fouls, putting the Bathers in the bonus early. Moon — who led all scorers with 36 points — had to eventually sit down for a few minutes with four fouls of his own.
“I did get concerned with the fouls we were picking up, and I was concerned in the first half, that we were giving up so many points. We were applying the pressure, but we weren’t playing any defense. And I think because we were scoring relatively easily, they were taking it easy on defense. We made that correction in the second half. After making that correction, I think they got a little — they started anticipating a little bit more, and putting themselves in bad positions. And Mt. Clemens was knocking down the shots,” Watts said. “You saw them not being able to handle the pressure as well, especially when their best player, No. 2 (Javaughn Hannah), leaves the game, they didn’t have that many more ball-handlers … as good as him, anyway. That’s when your team starts anticipating, and that’s when we started getting those fouls.”
Still, John Glenn led 65-44 after three quarters, and used a 10-4 run to start the fourth to push it as high as 76-48.
Hannah led the Bathers with 10 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, while Kyree Haye had 14 points, and Matthew Coffey had 12 points, eight rebounds and four blocks for Mt. Clemens.